A Tribute to My Grandmother

I woke up that morning, just like it was any other morning when I would get ready for class. Except I wasn’t.

I dressed up and put on my best suit and tie, as if I was getting ready for the university career fair scheduled for that day. Except I wasn’t.

The morning sun shone through the windows as if it was trying to give a tiny sliver of light and hope despite the frigid temperatures outside. If there was any warmth that came from the sky, I didn’t feel any of it that day.

I won’t forget the moment when all the thoughts in my head came to a sudden halt and crashed on top of each other as the neurons in my brain tried to process something that I did not understand at the time.

My physical senses numbed as I stood there with my family. My voice faltered. My eyes failed to see. My heart wept.

My mind pressed “play”. Memories filled the screen in my head as I began to recollect and relive each moment that I had with my grandmother —

the one who cared for me and my sister,

the one who watched over us as our parents went to work,

the one who loved us.


To My Grandmother

2003

I remember when you first immigrated here from China when I was only just a little shorter than you, over 14 years ago. You were bright and as happy as one can be, to enter a new country with your daughter, her husband and her children — us. You weren’t afraid.

You took on a new hobby as you settled in our home, starting a garden and keeping it full of surprises as you tended a variety of vegetables. You were always so excited to share what you had grew, from a bed of beautiful red and yellow flowers to the delicious cucumbers and spinach you added in your savory home-made soups.

I remember watching in wonder when you would gather ingredients and spend the day in the kitchen making and cooking dumplings and my favorite, zongzi (粽子), with all the bamboo leaves laid out on the counter. Sometimes my sister and I would assist you folding the dumpling creases and adding in the pork or vegetable-based filling.

You wouldn’t hesitate to offer me one more bowl of rice during dinner, and I would happily eat more. We would all dine as a family, sharing our days with each other and making each other laugh at our broken jokes as I attempt to speak proper Cantonese and you English.

We would sit together on the couch on Sunday nights, tuning into what was on the television whether it was some cheesy Chinese drama or a hilarious variety show. You would tell me to sleep earlier so that I could get a head start for school the next morning.

Sometimes I would come home early from school and you were always there, ready to greet me at the door. Maybe I would practice the piano, watch television, or start my homework. We wouldn’t have much to say to each other, but just being in each other’s presence was more than enough.

You would be the barrier between our sibling tantrums. At the same time, you would be the connection to our hardworking parents. The wisdom you imparted was simple and just.

Fierce, yet gentle. Stubborn, yet understanding.

Then I grew up.

Summers grew short. I hung out more with my friends, often skipping dinner at home. School became more of a priority and career became my focus. As time continued, I wouldn’t see you for months compared to my daily conversations with you. Life consumed me as I consumed life back. I was living it, but often times not sharing it.

The chance to share more with you has passed.

No more will I be able to share another bowl of rice with you across the dinner table. No more will I be able to simply sit with you, whether in joyful conversation or peaceful silence. No more will I be able to share with you the joys and delights I myself have found in life as time forces me to move forward.

While your time here has gone, I know that you are watching us from afar. Cheering us on. Listening to us. Loving us.

And when my time comes, I will be searching for you in this vast world and beyond. I will see your smile. I will hear your laugh. We will sit together, and I will be ready to share with you the happiness I have found and you will be ready to share with me the happiness that you’ve always had.

May you rest in peace, 婆婆 .

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